Leta Stetter Hollingworth's "Children Above 180 IQ"

    Yesterday and today, I've been reviewing Leta Hollingworth's "Children Above 180 IQ", a book that I last read in 1945. What's so interesting about it is that, like the light from distant galaxies, it affords you a window into the past. Dr. Hollingworth presents 31 case histories, 12 of which she studied in depth. They were born between 1908 and 1929 (my year of birth). (Many of these prodigies are probably still numbered among the living.) What I'm seeking to determine is whether or not children are more precocious today than they were in 1900 or more realistically, 1920. There's some reason to suppose that the answer might be "yes". To give an example, William Sidis, with every possible kind of parental stimulus, spoke his first word ("door") at 6 months. Although he is alleged to have begun reading the New York Times at 18 months, he was actually almost two before he started to read. His mother said that he read well by the age of 3, By contrast, Adam Konantovich, after being pronounced "exceedingly mature neurologically at birth" by his pediatrician, began speaking words and then grammatically correct sentences at three months(!), engaging in complex conversations at six months, and reading simple books at a year. By three-and-a-half, he could speak several languages. He allegedly made the highest score attained to date on the Stanford Binet IQ test: 268. (Note that this exceeds Marilyn vos Savant's score by 40 points. However, this would have occurred after her world-record score was obtained.) Michael Kearney spoke his first sentence ("I have a left ear infection") at 6 months, and was reading and spelling at 12 months. "W" also began speaking in sentences ("Put on another record.") at 6 months, and finished his first-grade reader at 12 months.

    In 20 years of searching, backed by the resources of Columbia University, Leta Hollingworth was able to locate only 12 children with IQs above 180. In her book, she also briefly describes 19 other cases reported by others. We might be led to suppose that IQs above 180 were indeed rare in the 1920s if it weren't for the fact that the Terman screening of 250,000 Califonia schoolchildren turned up 26 of them... about 1 out of every 9,500 schoolchildren. The average IQ of Dr. Hollingworth's 12 case studies might be something like 190, corresponding to a deviation IQ of about 168.4.
    In the intervening 60 to 80 years since Dr. Hollingworth conducted her studies, the Flynn Effect has boosted scores on IQ tests by, on average, 3 points per decade. If someone with an IQ of 100 in 1920 were to take a present-day IQ test, they might be expected to score no more than an IQ of 80 on it. Conversely, when someone with a present-day IQ of 100 takes an IQ test like the 1916 Stanford-Binet, the Army Alpha Test, or the Thorndike CAVD, they would probably get no less than a IQ of 125 (100/80). In other words, they would get a mental age of 20 on the Stanford Binet. Similarly, someone with a present-day IQ of 120 would get a 150 (ignoring ceiling effects) on the Stanford Binet, and would be assigned a mental age of 24. Following this line of reasoning to its inevitable conclusion, someone with a present-day ratio IQ of 152 and a deviation IQ of 145 can be expected to make a score (again, neglecting ceiling effects) upon the California Test of Mental Maturity that I have here in my file drawer, of 30.4  years of mental age, thereby matching an adult in 1920 with an IQ of 190. Is that reasonable? To help you decide, I've summarized 5 of her 12 cases. (I'll try to get the rest listed by tomorrow or Monday.) What level of IQ do you think it would take to match the performances of her 12 children? What present-day level of IQ typically goes with reading at 3? How about the ages at which they start to talk in sentences?
    I've mentioned above the extraordinary stories of extraordinary children like Michael and Maeghan Such children are presumably quite rare, occurring at the one-in-many-million level.  But even though Dr. Hollingworth seems to have thought that her children above 180 IQ were very rare, seemingly, they weren't that rare even in her own time, occurring once in every 10,000-to-25,000 children. It may be that there were children in 1920 who said their first sentence at 6 months, and who began to read at or shortly after 12 months.
    Be that as it may, the answer that would help us to decide how much (if any) of the Flynn Effect is a true improvement in intelligence is the frequency of occurrence of today's children who can do what Leta Hollingworth's children could do at the ages cited in the case histories below. If 1 in every 1,000 or 1 in every 2,000 of today's young children rival Dr. Hollingworth's children above 180 IQ, then perhaps we can entertain the idea that the Flynn Effect is actually a boost in true intelligence.

    See what you think.

Dr. Hollingworth's 12 Case Histories:

Table I.Summary Description of 12 Children with IQs Above 180
 
C
S
IQ
Talked
R
Personality, Character
Age
A
M
184-191
10 mos. 
 3
undemonstrative, absent-minded, obstinate , dominant
 86
B
F
 188-189
9 mos. 
 3
 socially very adept, good mixer, dominant
 88
C
M
 188-190
 16 mos.
 3
 unsociable, prig, tactless, exacting
87
D
M
184 
 8 mos.
 1.5
 socially adept, no play, chess
 D
E
M
187
24 mos. 
 3
 congenial, undemonstrative, no play, private, no hobby
 92
F
M
 162-200+
12 mos.
 4.5
 sociable, severe character flaws 
 D
G
M
 163-192
 ?
6
 sociable, excellent character, exacting
 77
H
F
 148-189
 16 mos.
4.5
 sociable, adult among children
 77
I
F
 184
 18 mos.
?
sociable, outstanding supporting traits
71
J
F
197- 200+
?
 3
 sociable, played, adult among children
 71
K
M
 143-178
2
 3
 loner, exacting
77
L
M
 153-199
 9 mos.
4
 sociable, serious, exacting
 73

C  (Column 1) - Letter code for identifying each child.
(Column 2) - Sex.
IQ (Column 3) - Range of measured IQs.
Talked (Column 4) - Approximate age at which child spoke first words.
R  (Column 5) - Age at which child learned to read.
Personality, Character (Column 6) - Personality and character traits.
Age (Column 7) - Present age, if still living. ("D" = "Known to be Deceased")

    Note that of the 12 children listed above, 9 have more than one IQ score listed. Of the 9, 5 have a test score that ranges from 37 points to 41 points--in other words, about 40 points--below their other score(s). In addition, Child I who scored 184 on her one test, unlike the other children described here, exhibited achievement test results more in line with an IQ in the 150's than in the 180's.

 Child A:
Brother's IQ scores: 145, 152, 145, 161

1.  Born: 1914.

2.  Early History:

3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics: 4.  Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
6-6
187
166.7
 
 
7-6
191
169.0
76
 
7-10
187
166.7
 
 
8-8
184
165.0
95
 
9-6
186
167.3
128
 
10-6
 
 
166
 
11-6
 
 
162
 
14-6
 
 
194
 
16-6
 
 
 
422
17-7
 
 
204
 
Average
IQ
187
166.9
 
 

5.  Follow-Up:
    A graduated from college at 19 and married at 25.
    Child A would now be 86 years old.
 

Child B:

1. Born: 1912

2.  Early History:

3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics 4.  Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
8-3
189
168.0
 
 
9-4
188
167.0
84
 
12-1
----
----
 142
 
Average
IQ
188.5
167.5
 
 

5.  Follow-Up:
    Was 12 at last contact. Wanted to become "a celebrated authoress, actress, artist, and musician".
    Child B would now be 88 years old.
 

Child C:
Father dropped out of elementary school. Mother graduated from high school.

1.  Born: 1913

2.  Early History:

3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics 4.  Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
9-3
190
168.4
 146
 
9-10
188
167.0
 
 
12-1
----
----
 195
435 
13-7        435 
18-6        446 (Max) 
19-6      210   
Average
IQ
189
167.5
 
 

5.  Follow-Up
    Graduated from columbia at 20. Entered NYU Medical School, and was an interne in 1940 at age 27.
    Child C would now be 87 years old.
 

Child D

1.  Born:1910

2.  Early History:

3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics 4.  Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
7-4
184
165.0
 
 
10-11
 
 
185
 
12-3
----
----
 142
 
Average
IQ
184
165
 
 106

5.  Follow-Up
    D undertook graduate work with distinction, and became a research chemist in the film industry. He died in 1938.
    Child D is deceased.
 

Child E

1.  Born:1908

2.  Early History:

3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics 4.  Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
8-4
187
166.7
 146
 ----
13-3
----
----
194/201
----
18-11
----
----
 ----
441 
Average
IQ
187
166.7
 
 

5.  Follow-Up

    Child E would now be 92 years old.
 

Child F

1.  Born:1914

2.  Early History:
     "F" had an enormous head at birth. Spoke in short sentences at about 12 months. F learned to read between 4 and 5.

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:


4. Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
9-10
162
 
 163
 ----
10-2
>182
----
----
----
11-6
>208?
----
 ----
----
18-2 ----  ---- 192  ----
Average
IQ
187
166.7
 
 

5.  Follow-Up

Child F died in 1937.
 

Child G

1. Born: 1923

2. Early History
   G learned to read before he started school, but G's parents didn't realize that he was exceptional(!?)

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics

4. Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
6-7
163
 152
 ----
 ----
8-0
192
169.5
----
----
9-10
>176
>160
 ----
----
10-10 Perfect  ---- ----  ----
Average
IQ
 
 
 
 

5.  Follow-Up:
    G graduated from high school at 15, and started at Harvard on a scholarship.
    Child G would now be 77 years old.
 

Child H:

1. Born: 1923

2. Early History:

Poem at 5 years, 6 months:
"If I had Aladdins' lamp, you see,
    I'd give one wish to you and me.
 And then we'd wish for every toy,
   That every child should have some joy."

Poem at 8-6::
"On the clover fields he roams,
     In the mountains,
     At the homes,
Makes the trees and flowers grow,
And manufactures pure, white snow.
                      ---God---"

Poem at 16:
The Gospel of Intolerance
"They said no
And who shall but hear the whisper of command shall without
   question don his uniform and go out upon the field of
    death in obediance.
And who shall lie asleep in the sun must be roused
And who shall sit in lavender chairs eating of the earth shall drop his spoon
And who shall lie with the woman shall turn from his passion
And all this shall be done without words as the answer to the
    whisper of that which is calling and that which is in
    command.
And who shall stuff his ears with cotton must needs be
    twice called."

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:

4. Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
3-0
183
 164
 ----
 ----
5-11
148
142
----
----
10-1
189
168
 ----
----
10-6 ----  ---- 135  ----
10-7 174+ 160+ ---- 394
Average
IQ
 
 
 
 

5. Follow-Up:
    No information is available beyond the age of 10 except for the "Gospel of Intolerance"
    Child H would now be 77 years old.
 

1. Child I:

1. Born: 1929

2. Early History:


            STARS
The stars are shining bright tonight
   I wonder why they shine so bright
I guess to make it light at night.
         Age 5 years

              THE CAVE MAN
The cave man was a hunter,
    A hunter brave and bold,
He wore the skins of those he killed
   To keep him from the cold.
And many ages later, when he had passed away,
    Men found in caves the sharpened stones
That he used every day.
           Age 7 years 5 months

                        FLOWERS
Red and yellow tulips blooming on the lawn,
Blooming in the woodland, trampled by the fawn,
Little yellow dandelions hiding in the meadows,
Given to the cow to eat every time she bellows.
Pretty red roses upon a bush
Like a little lady bursting with a blush.
White and purple lilacs on a bush of olive green
As a birthday present were given to a queen.
     Age 7 years 5 months

                       SEARCHING
A wandering stranger am I
I believe in nothing but the great power of the gods,
The whole world have I searched for their wisdom.
But such wisdom found have I not.

Though I have searched the whole world over
    Not a trace of such can be found.

I have searched on the hilltops, in the valleys----
    I wonder if such things there are in this whole wide world of wonder.

The rocks have I broken
   To find this great wisdom
But the wondrous marvels are not to be found.
              Age 8 years

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:

4. Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
7-7
184
 165
 ----
 ----
8-3
----
----
----
361*
8-6
----
----
 ----
SAT: 12-3
9-0 ----  ---- ---- SAT: 13-5
10-0 ---- ---- ---- SAT: 17-8
11-0 ---- ---- ---- SAT: 18-5
AverageIQ
 
 
 
 

*- Median 7th-grade (12-5) score.
    The 3 SAT scores at ages 9, 10, and 11 are beyond the range of the test.

5. Follow-Up:
    No follow-up was possible beyond the age of 9.
    Child I would now be 71 years old.
 

Child J:

1. Born: 1929

2. Early History:

       A MARCH SNOWFALL
It's March, yet snow is falling fast,
And one may hear the wintry blast.
A budding tree, a sign of spring,
Will to me great gladness bring.
When crocuses have put their heads,
Above the softened garden beds,
An when in all the fields around
Lively little lambkins bound,
And green creeps up across the lawn
I'll be glad the snow has gone.

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:

4. Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
7-10
197+
 172+
 ----
 ----
10-0
200+
174+
----
----
9-9
----
----
 ----
384
7-6 ----  ---- ---- SAT: 14-4
Average
IQ
 
 
 
 

5. Follow-Up:
    In J's case, as in I's, there was no follow-up beyond the age of 11.
    Child J would now be 71 years old.
 

Child K:

1. Born: 1922

2. Early History:

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics: 4. Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation 
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
6-4
143*
 138
 ----
 ----
8-3
178*
161.5
----
----
Average
IQ
 
 
 
 

* - The examiner predicted that the child would score much higher when tested alone with the instructor.
* - The examiner says that only one or two 8-year-olds in 100,000 achieve such a score. The examiner adds, "Tell him he is going to have a bright future if he learns to get self-control. (I mention this last because you spoke of his having emotional upsets.)"

5. Follow-Up:
    Child K graduated from high school at the age of 15.
    Child K would now be 77 years old.
 

Child L:

1. Born: 1927

2. Early History:

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:


4. Mental Measurements:
 
Age
Yr.-Mo.
Ratio
IQ
Deviation
IQ
Army
Alpha
Thorndike
CAVD
8-5
153*
 145
 ----
 ----
9-5
195
171
----
----
10-8
>183
>164
 ----
----
10-0 
199
 173
----
 ----
9-6 
----
----
----
392
 11-6 
----
----
----
416
9-7 
 15-6*
 ----
 ----
----
10-7 
 17-6*
 ----
 ----
 ----
11-7 
 18-2*
 ----
 ----
 ----
12-7
 UM*
 ----
 ----
 ----
Average
IQ
 
 
 
 

* - On Otis Self-Administering Test.
* - Scholastic Achievement Tests
 

5. Follow-Up:
   Planning to become a mathematics professor when last seen. Doing well, and preparing for college.
    Child L would now be 73 years old.